Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 24 July 2014

Why it's time for us women to bring shoe fetish to heel

Reboot: High heels are a step too far for the modern woman

High heels are to feet what cages are to canaries: as much as they show off the canary, they enslave and damage the bird. For years women have been infatuated with this form of footwear, yet now we're realising we've been writing love-letters to our own prison guards.

Sex and the City's Kristin Davis is the latest high-profile figure to turn her back on stiletto servitude. Earlier this week, she apologised for encouraging women to wear high heels, saying, "I do feel guilt about the heels. It did seem we were trying to say to women, 'You should be wearing heels like these'. But we definitely weren't.

"Were they beautiful shoes? Yes. Were they appropriate for the characters? Yes, that's what women like that wear. But it became a bigger picture thing, where it seemed women should be wearing them every day."

Squeezing our feet into these fashion Bastilles can lead to irreparable damage.

High heels force our spine and hips out of alignment, they pile pressure on our fragile knee joints, they cause abnormality in the heels (the gruesome-sounding affliction Haglund's Deformity), as well as inflaming tissue on the soles of the feet and shortening your muscles.

Up to a third of women suffer permanent problems as a result of wearing high heels.

Sarah Jessica Parker recently admitted going to a foot-doctor who told her, "Your foot does things it shouldn't be able to. That bone there – you've created that bone. It doesn't belong there."

We are told sliding into high heels makes us feel powerful, taller, stylish and more feminine.

Manolo Blahnik has said that heels "make life more exciting... it's about elegance... If you are a woman, it's a way to appeal to the male species, it's a way to attract". Christian Louboutin told us something similar.

Even scientists have set out to prove that high heels make us look sexier. Historically, it was never so, but for generations now, high heels have been associated with eroticism. This form of footwear has moved from being a fetish into a fashion item and now high heels are practically an obligation for some women.

It is this that is most worrying and has the potential to do the opposite of what retailers promise when they sell us their tall tales.

This consumerist construct has teetered so far into la-la land that women are now choosing to wear high heels for interviews, believing heels make them look businesslike, well-presented and competent. Some bosses even expect us to wear heels, as a TUC report highlighted. But the truth is, we're crippling ourselves.

Plus: there's nothing well-put together about trotting 10 paces behind your male colleague to make it to a meeting on time. Or having your handbags stuffed with a pair of flats instead of a laptop.

Today, high heels are one of the only items of clothing (excluding lingerie) made exclusively for women.

There is nothing empowering about that.

Let's get men to look us in the eye because they respect us – not because we're in six-inch heels.

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